Glenn’s Technical Insights For December 3, 2019

(Glenn’s Technical Insights… used to be part of our bi-weekly newsletter but we decided to make it a regular blog post instead so it can get more visibility. It covers new hardware and software developments that are generally relevant for SQL Server). It also can just be other technically-oriented items that I find interesting.

Intel Releases Cascade Lake-X HEDT Processors

On November 25, Intel released their new line of 14nm high-end desktop (HEDT) processors which is the Cascade Lake-X family. This is the latest iteration of Intel’s Core X-series Processors which have traditionally been their most expensive non-Xeon processors. This release includes four SKUs, ranging from 10C/20T up to 18C/36T.

Intel Core i9-10980XE       18C/36T      $979.00

Intel Core i9-10940X         14C/28T      $784.00

Intel Core i9-10920X         12C/24T      $689.00

Intel Core i9-10900X         10C/20T      $590.00

These prices are roughly 50% lower than the previous generation Skylake-X Refresh HEDT processors. Given Intel’s poor competitive position right now, a large price cut was about they best they could do to try to make this release more attractive. Even a 50% price cut doesn’t actually seem to be enough given the benchmark results for these processors.


Figure 1: Intel Cascade Lake-X Details


Interestingly, there is no 16C/32T SKU in this generation (which would replace the previous generation Core i9-9960X). I think it is pretty likely that Intel purposely skipped that SKU because it would not compare very well to the new 16C/32T AMD Ryzen 9 3950X.

The reviews (and benchmark results) for these four new HEDT processors have been almost universally negative. These processors use the pretty ancient X299 chipset, which is lacking several modern features. What is really bad for Intel is that their new “flagship” Core i9-10980XE HEDT processor is beaten by the new AMD Ryzen 9 3950X mainstream desktop processor in many benchmarks, even though it costs about $200 more. It is also completely dominated by the new, more expensive 7nm AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3960X and 3970X HEDT processors in most benchmarks.

Here are a few reviews:


In my mind, there are really not too many scenarios where these processors would be a good choice for a new machine build. They do not compare well to to the less expensive mainstream desktop Ryzen 9 processors for single-threaded or multi-threaded performance (or platform features). They also do not fare very well against the more expensive 3rd Generation AMD Threadripper processors for more serious content creation workloads.

I would argue that semi-serious content creators would be better off with a 12C/24T AMD Ryzen 9 3900X or a 16C/32T AMD Ryzen 9 3950X instead of any of these Cascade Lake-X processors. If you literally make your living off of content creation tasks, it is an easy decision to step up to a 3rd Generation AMD Threadripper system.




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